Are Psalm-singers divisive?

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markkoller

Puritan Board Freshman
At www.exclusivepsalmody.com the question is asked, "It seems to me that those who promote Exclusive Psalmody have stirred up a lot of friction in the church. Why is the Exclusive Psalmody movement so divisive?"

or put another way

"Which causes more division in the church...uninspired hymns or inspired Psalms?"
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
They're defending an important principle: the primacy of God's Hymnbook - the Psalms - in the worship of the New Covenant Israel of God (Galatians 6:16). This Hymnbook was suitable for the Old Covenant Church, but has been transfigured by the First Advent of Christ.

Other Scripture songs, paraphrases and good quality hymns may have their place in the worship of God's people, but it's utterly disgraceful the way in which God's Own Hymnbook has often been treated and relegated by the evangelical church.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
The people I know who are EP are not divisive at all. In fact the congregation I am a member of is EP and they are some of the most loving people I know. They work with all kinds of denominations also. The discussion can be heated and there is a lot of ignorance out there concerning it.
 

kvanlaan

Puritan Board Doctor
I go to a church that is not EP, but I love the EP churches that I've been to. I think the argument is fairly simple: God gave us a song book and that's what we're gonna use. Full stop.
 

Tim

Puritan Board Graduate
Some Christians are fine with singing uninspired hymns.
All Christians are fine with singing inspired Psalms (or should be).

It seems to me that singing uninspired hymns would be the more divisive choice because it is the only choice that excludes people. Singing inspired Psalms would never exclude anyone. Are there any Christians that would object to singing a Psalm?
 

JonathanHunt

Puritan Board Senior
My limited experience is that the hostility comes from the non-EP people who simply don't understand EP. I am non-EP but I would claim to understand EP. All that said, human nature is to make much of our differences and to want to be vindicated and so forth, and I have no doubt that folks on both sides of the debate have in the past behaved in unloving ways.
 

Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
For the record, I am not EP but I try to be Psalm-friendly in our worship services. Furthermore, hymn singing can equally be divisive, for good or bad reasons, albeit in different ways (folks who want a favorite sentimental hymn sung, or folks who refuse to sing certain hymns, etc.). There are hymn singers who reject psalm singing because it is too strange and different to them. So it cuts both ways.

I have enjoyed wonderful fellowship with EPers before, as Randy alludes to above. But there are some things about EP that do bother me and do not help in the conversation. For example, once when I inquired (for curiosity reasons) about becoming an ordained minister in the RPCNA, I was told that I would have to affirm that hymn singing was sinful. Furthermore, it has always bothered me with some (perhaps not all) EPers that psalm singing itself is not good enough. It has to be metrical psalms. Or it has to be a particular version of metrical psalms. Or it has to be a particular version of metrical psalms sung w/o instruments.

Then there was once the psalm singer who called me an apostate because I wasn't EP and approved of musical instruments in worship. In his case, at least, yes, it was divisive.
 
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fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
Some Christians are fine with singing uninspired hymns.
All Christians are fine with singing inspired Psalms (or should be).

It seems to me that singing uninspired hymns would be the more divisive choice because it is the only choice that excludes people. Singing inspired Psalms would never exclude anyone. Are there any Christians that would object to singing a Psalm?
This is simplistic. We might say that radical Dispensationalists only want to have us preach from the Pauline Epistles, but the divisive folks want to use the OT. Who could object to using the Epistles? So perhaps we should only use the Epistles?

It's called, "tyranny of the minority."
 

CNJ

Puritan Board Senior
I have not come from an EP background, Pastor Mark. My first experience with Psalm singing was singing a Psalm to the tune of the beloved "Amazing Grace". That seemed so stange to me and I couldn't concentrate on the words to that Psalm with Amazing Grace lyrics in my head.

It has never been divisive in our church and I am finally more used to Psalms sung to familiar hymn melodies. We also have it both ways. We sing hymns at other times--before the invocation and after the benediction in the Sunday morning service or at other times. That practice may bother some EP people and so I guess if could be divisive.

You have to pick your battles, don't you! Maintaining unity is also important and I notice some Reformed people can be divisive by wanting to battle everything all the time. Divisiveness is never edifying in my opinion.

I have noticed that some EP people enjoy Christian music and Reformed rap but not in the worship service.
 
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Beoga

Puritan Board Freshman
I tend to find that the people that disagree with me are usually more divisive.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Like anything else that Reformed Christians encounter in the church, divisiveness over an issue should be short-lived. This is where strong church leadership needs to step up to the plate. If a church is EP there should be no reason for a non-EPer to challenge it. The elders should deal with the individual(s), in love, but deal with them nonetheless. The same if a church is non-EP. A contrary voice should be instructed as to why the church holds to a non-EP position. Either that reason is good enough or it's not. If not, well, accept what is or move on to another church. I may seem rather blunt on this issue but that's because I have little patience for divisiveness in the church over areas that have already been vetted and accepted.

P.S. It's been my experience that divisive and/or contrary individuals are like that in many areas. It's a pervasive personality trait. It's not unique to just one opinion.
 

beej6

Puritan Board Sophomore
I prefer the position of "Inclusive Psalmody" = psalms must be sung but not exclusively necessarily. Most (non-Reformed) churches err by *not* singing Psalms; if they did, their choices of hymns would naturally and by God's grace begin to be winnowed down.
 

JP Wallace

Puritan Board Sophomore
I agree with Bob that there are divisive people- some will no doubt be found in both "camps". However my experience of EP denominations and churches is that they are very far from being divisive or exclusive of those of the opposite persuasion, indeed in pursuit of a true catholicity they have been very tolerant of the majority position which includes hymns, and have not allowed this to interrupt fellowship and communion.

I do think that since the historical practice of the Reformed churches is inspired psalmody that from a historical perspective the introduction of hymnody has been the divisive movement.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Like anything else that Reformed Christians encounter in the church, divisiveness over an issue should be short-lived. This is where strong church leadership needs to step up to the plate. If a church is EP there should be no reason for a non-EPer to challenge it. The elders should deal with the individual(s), in love, but deal with them nonetheless. The same if a church is non-EP. A contrary voice should be instructed as to why the church holds to a non-EP position. Either that reason is good enough or it's not. If not, well, accept what is or move on to another church. I may seem rather blunt on this issue but that's because I have little patience for divisiveness in the church over areas that have already been vetted and accepted.

P.S. It's been my experience that divisive and/or contrary individuals are like that in many areas. It's a pervasive personality trait. It's not unique to just one opinion.
I agree. The only thing I would add, is if a church is nonEP and an EP family was interested in membership, the elders could easily make sure that one or two Psalms were included each week.

But, no doubt, divisive people are more about being divisive for the sake of being divisive than for the sake of one particular issue.
 

Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
The only thing I would add, is if a church is nonEP and an EP family was interested in membership, the elders could easily make sure that one or two Psalms were included each week.
But this is exactly the sort of situation I was talking about. For some, that's not good enough. We had a EP guy attending our church for a while. He was polite and non-divisive and would stand, but even when we sang psalms he did not participate. First, they were accompanied by musical instruments; secondly, they were not from a particular psalter (even though some of the psalms we sing are actually older).
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
The only thing I would add, is if a church is nonEP and an EP family was interested in membership, the elders could easily make sure that one or two Psalms were included each week.
But this is exactly the sort of situation I was talking about. For some, that's not good enough. We had a EP guy attending our church for a while. He was polite and non-divisive and would stand, but even when we sang psalms he did not participate. First, they were accompanied by musical instruments; secondly, they were not from a particular psalter (even though some of the psalms we sing are actually older).
Wow. Do Epers not only see the singing of Psalms as an essential, but also instrumental accompaniment and particular psalters? I guess the elders could, for the sake of unity, find that particular psalter and sing one once a week, without accompaniment. But, again, what concessions would this man be willing to make? Unity works both ways.
 

SolaGratia

Puritan Board Junior
"Certainly God expects this land to be humbled for its will-worship, otherwise we sow among thorns. All the reformation that is among us is meaningless if there is not a humiliation before for all our false worship. It is not enough that we set up now the true worship of God, but we must be humbled for our false worship. And that's the first note: that in the worship of God there must be nothing but what God commands." (Jeremiah Burroughs, Gospel Worship, p. 14)
 

John Lanier

Puritan Board Junior
Wow. Do Epers not only see the singing of Psalms as an essential, but also instrumental accompaniment and particular psalters?
Most EPers that I know, including myself, would say that acapella is also correct but I would not be divisive about it. I also know some, NOT including myself, that limit it to one psalter (from what I have found, usually the 1650 Scottish). Considering that there are so few psalm singing churches, I think it is silly that people would fight over a particular psalter, unless the psalter is completely deficient. I know of several good quality psalters out there though such as the 1650 Scottish Psalter, Book of Psalms for Worship, Book of Psalms for Singing, etc.
 

Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
they were not from a particular psalter
Just out of curiosity, which one?
In this case, the RPCNA psalter (the older one, not the newer one). I was singing one Lord's Day afternoon Psalm 133 from the ARP Psalter -- in this case, the same as the version from the 1650 Scottish Psalter, except for the repetition of the final line of each verse. The complaint was that the version I was singing had "ointment" instead of "oil," so that made it unacceptable in his thinking, if I understood him rightly.

Let me state that this is only an example. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the RPCNA brethren (distant cousins of the ARP), and I have fellowshipped with them and found them to be very warm and loving and hospitable and godly people. For what it's worth, the person who called me an apostate (as well as a hypocrite) was NOT RPCNA.

Let me also add that even though I am not an EPer, at the request of a few folks in our congregation, we have added a psalms only evening service twice a month at our church. Among other things, we use the newer version of the RPCNA psalter (for which we purchased a digital licensing agreement).
 

Joseph Scibbe

Puritan Board Junior
I can't see holding to an EP position and reading Eph 5:19 and Col 3:16. We are commanded to sing Psalms, Hymns and spiritual songs (translation may differ). There are 3 categories of songs here and to ignore the others is wrong. (in my opinion)
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Like anything else that Reformed Christians encounter in the church, divisiveness over an issue should be short-lived. This is where strong church leadership needs to step up to the plate. If a church is EP there should be no reason for a non-EPer to challenge it. The elders should deal with the individual(s), in love, but deal with them nonetheless. The same if a church is non-EP. A contrary voice should be instructed as to why the church holds to a non-EP position. Either that reason is good enough or it's not. If not, well, accept what is or move on to another church. I may seem rather blunt on this issue but that's because I have little patience for divisiveness in the church over areas that have already been vetted and accepted.

P.S. It's been my experience that divisive and/or contrary individuals are like that in many areas. It's a pervasive personality trait. It's not unique to just one opinion.
I agree. The only thing I would add, is if a church is nonEP and an EP family was interested in membership, the elders could easily make sure that one or two Psalms were included each week.

But, no doubt, divisive people are more about being divisive for the sake of being divisive than for the sake of one particular issue.
Ken, I know I'm going down a rabbit trail, but I would be resistant to conceding anything regarding the construction of worship to individuals who hold to a different opinion on EP. It begins at bad precedent In my humble opinion.

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Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Let me add that the resistance I wrote about was in the context of potential members.

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N. Eshelman

Puritan Board Senior
I am EP and I will tell you that in our hearts we are all divisive. It's human, sinful nature. I know some EP folks who will cause all sorts of problems over the issue. I heard of one former-RPCNA pastor who was at an OPC presbytery meeting and called them out on their lack of the use of the psalter and called for their repentance. In some ways, it's a funny story, but it really does not do much for the unity of the body of Christ. There are better ways to do these things, In my humble opinion.

On the other hand, for Reformed people- we must remember that it was the hymn singers that divided from the psalm singers, not the other way around. EPs cannot be called divisive in one sense, because we are just standing on the position that at one time ALL reformed people held. The hymn singers divided from us, not the other way around. EPs are just calling the church to remember her goodly heritage, and many are not comfortable hearing that. :2cents:

I love singing the psalms, exclusively, without musical accompaniment- I do it every day in my home with my family, and every Lord's Day with my congregation, and every Wednesday evening at prayer meeting. I love it! But I do realize that this is a sensitive issue that requires much grace and Christ-like behavior when discussing. That's that hard part, I guess.


I can't see holding to an EP position and reading Eph 5:19 and Col 3:16. We are commanded to sing Psalms, Hymns and spiritual songs (translation may differ). There are 3 categories of songs here and to ignore the others is wrong. (in my opinion)
This is not germane to the discussion, but in the first century- what were these 3 categories of song that you speak of? Was it psalms, hymns and praise songs or was it something else? I am just curious as to how this is to be understood apart from the psalter. :)
 
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Backwoods Presbyterian

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I can't see holding to an EP position and reading Eph 5:19 and Col 3:16. We are commanded to sing Psalms, Hymns and spiritual songs (translation may differ). There are 3 categories of songs here and to ignore the others is wrong. (in my opinion)
Traditionally the "Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs" were considered to be three different types of Psalms.

See this link to learn more about the traditional exegesis of Eph 5:19 and Col 3:16. Read this link.

Here

and

Here
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
One point on this issue, I've never understood: how can a Christian church restrict itself to songs that do not specifically name Christ? I understand that many of the Psalms are prophetic; it still just seems odd to me.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
This is being discussed and decided upon by a plenary assembly of the Free Church of Scotland on November 18 and 19th. Some in our denomination want to see some hymns in some congregations and also musical instruments.

I think it is would be a backward step to change our worship in this way, and we should rather strengthen and clarify our position.

I believe there are various papers pro and con making a change at the FC website.
 

markkoller

Puritan Board Freshman
From The Psalms in Worship by John McNaugher

4. There is also an indirect or negative argument founded on the evil results of a departure from our position. Our Saviour gave us this practical principle for testing every practice and doctrine : “By their fruits ye shall know them.” If the practice of worshipping God with uninspired song produces evil fruit, then it is not a tree that our Heavenly Father has planted. What are some evil fruits directly traceable to the practice of the Churches that oppose our principle?

(i) The earliest introduction of uninspired hymns was, according to historians, for the purpose of introducing heretical doctrines.

(2) It has borne the fruit of excluding the Psalms from all the hymnologies of modern hymn-singing Churches. While these brethren generally admit that the New Testament authorizes the use of the Psalms, they have practically discarded this divinely authorized book as a book, and allow but a few rare specimens of this heavenly collection to find a place among their man-made hymns. It has come to this, that the Churches will worship God with the Psalms exclusively or with the Psalms excluded. This is not good fruit.

(3) A practice that leads people to say hard things about a precious portion of God’s Word in order to defend itself is an indefensible practice. Dr. Watts, the father of hymnology in the Reformed Churches, in his Imitations of the Psalms says: “My design has been to make David and Asaph speak the common sense of a Christian.” We heard a Disciple minister quote with great relish and glee the words of Henry Ward Beecher: “David seems to have been inspired at times by the Spirit of the Lord and at other times by the spirit of the devil.” The common sneer at the Psalms as Jewish and unchristian in spirit is a serious charge against a part of Scripture that Christ Himself sang. This is not good fruit.

(4) It leads to confounding poetic genius and fervor with divine inspiration, to the great disparagement of the latter. A few years ago a writer in a religious journal claimed that Dr. Ray Palmer was inspired in writing the hymn “My Faith Looks up to Thee.” It is no uncommon thing to be told that the writers of modern hymns are just as much inspired as David was. Is it any wonder that so many people are off on the subject of inspiration? This is not good fruit.

(5) Judging by the criticisms of hymn-singing ministers, there must be considerable error in the hymnology of the Churches, and this is a most effective way to propagate it. Hence the practice of using human songs propagates error, and at the same time perpetuates the division of the body of Christ. Judging this tree of singing uninspired hymns by its fruit, as the Saviour told us to do, we feel compelled to say that it is not a good tree.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
I can't see holding to an EP position and reading Eph 5:19 and Col 3:16. We are commanded to sing Psalms, Hymns and spiritual songs (translation may differ). There are 3 categories of songs here and to ignore the others is wrong. (in my opinion)

If you have a chance I would direct you to Dr. Bacon's interview with William F. Hill Jr. on Covenant Radio for a better linguistic and historical understanding of Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs. You can listen to it on the following link.
Music in the Worship of God
 
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